Genius_ The Game - Leopoldo Gout Page 0,1

brother.

We debated it endlessly, watching the hours tick by, and finally decided we had to call. The police did what they could, but without any evidence of a crime, Teo was written off as a runaway. And that was it. Even with California’s lenient immigration laws, we knew we couldn’t call again.

Amazing how you can get used to something, though. Even torture like that.

Eventually, the pain turned to numbness and then, finally, tears. Every meal Ma would have to stop halfway through and go to her and Papa’s room, biting her bottom lip to try to hold the tears in. Everything she cooked was bland, like her tears had washed the flavor from her cooking. And Ma loved to cook. She worked at a Thai restaurant a few blocks from our house and used to love spending the weekends piling our kitchen table high with a crazy smorgasbord, where stuff like jim jum, chiles en nogada, panang gai, and papatzules sat side by side. But that was before.

Got so bad that Papa and I couldn’t eat, either. We’d just sit there and listen to Ma cry until Papa pushed his chair back from the table and knocked on the door to their bedroom real soft.

I wouldn’t see them for the rest of the night.

I’d put myself to bed, or more often fall asleep at my desk with my head on my keyboard and a half-eaten Oreo in one hand.

There were the usual stages of grief.

First it was denial.

We sat around the phone just knowing it would ring at any second. That Teo would be on the line and laugh and tell us how sorry he was for worrying us. He’d say he was coming home, that it was one big, crazy adventure and he couldn’t wait to tell us all about it.

That quickly turned to anger.

I found myself endlessly replaying my last interactions with Teo. They weren’t good. The months leading up to his disappearance were filled with antagonism and disappointment. He’d just gone through a series of knock-down, drag-out battles at college over politically motivated hacking, and dropped out. Bitter, he kind of gave up on biology, too, and instead spent almost all his free time online in hacktivist and anarchist forums. He got really into this group of radical hackers called Terminal. Terminal was shady. It ran defacement and denial-of-service attacks on multinational corporations and totalitarian governments. But Teo defended them, said they were bringing power to the powerless and actually accomplishing things.

“Yeah, bad things,” I’d tell him when he said it.

“They just look bad,” he’d reply.

Unlike Teo’s anger, however, ours dissipated. We couldn’t hate him for long. It took months, but for Ma and Papa, that sadness eventually transformed into a numb sort of acceptance.

Papa, he got real into work, breaking his back in the winery as the harvest cellar operator. His nose got him that job. I sometimes joked Papa could sniff an aroma from a grape when the plant was still a seedling. Regardless, he worked harder than anyone else in that place once he got the promotion.

Ma, she built a shrine to Teo in his room. It was nothing fancy, more like one of those things you see on the side of the highway where someone crashed into a pole or flipped their car after a drunken night out.

That shrine, it said more about Teo than he’d ever admit about himself.

It had his least favorite picture of him. He looked too thin, his hair was kind of goofy (and Teo spent a lot of time on his hair), and his smile was all lopsided. One of those “in the moment” photos, and even though it didn’t capture how cool Teo could be, it captured who he was. Underneath all the fussed-over detail, he was one of us, someone who wanted to be liked, someone who wanted to belong.

About eight months after Teo had gone, his name started to drift.

Soon it wasn’t Teo this or that, it was “your brother” or “our son.”

The shrine started to gather dust.

In their own private ways, Ma and Papa had grown used to the idea that Teo was gone for good, that he wouldn’t ever come back to us, that our family was shattered.

But not me.

Sure, I went on the same emotional roller coaster.

I found myself lying awake at night, bargaining. Making ridiculous offers for a swap—me for Teo—to every higher power I could think of. Sounded like a great deal at the time. None of them took me